Tips for Taking Kids to the Calgary Stampede Parade with Ease

calgary stampede parade

Kicking off “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, the Calgary Stampede Parade is a world famous parade that showcases floats, bands, riders, cultural entries and much more. Led by the World Champion Stampede Show Band this two hour parade is not one you want to miss and is an important part of the Stampede experience.

Calgary Stampede ParadeWhen I first came to Calgary I was scared away from going to the Calgary Stampede Parade (attended by up to 400,000 people each year) by my boyfriend at the time. He told me horror stories about how you had to get up at 5 in the morning to go downtown and claim your spot so you had a decent place to view the parade – which started at 9. The whole idea of going down that early and waiting around for the parade for hours just did not appeal to me, no matter how much I loved parades, so I never went.

And I definitely could not imagine getting up that early and doing that with kids! So it’s ironic that it wasn’t until I had kids that I started going to the Stampede Parade. My oldest was 8 the first time we went, and the twins were 2. I really wanted to go and I was tired of waiting around for someone to come with me and being scared by the prospect of not being able to find a spot to sit.

The Magic Formula

Calgary Stampede ParadeA few years earlier my sister had been in town and had gone to the parade with her girlfriend who lived here in Calgary. Her girlfriend had discovered a ‘secret formula’ that allowed her to go down to the parade at a reasonable time and still get a decent spot to sit and view the parade – with her kids and without fighting the crowds; so I took a chance and tried her method to take my kids to the parade without having to go down for 5 am (which honestly is ridiculous). Sure you can purchase bleacher seats and show up whenever you want but these tend to be expensive and few, as 80% of the route is free seating.

It worked beautifully. Not only did we get super spots, right on the curb to view the parade, we only had to wait for an hour or so before the parade came our way (and there is pre parade entertainment starting at 7:30 am) – so it was super easy to keep the kids entertained and engaged until the parade started. Honestly it was fantastic, the kids loved the parade and I was so glad that I had taken a chance and went.

Now we attend the parade every year using this technique that well, yes I am going to share with you, as well as these 6 other tips to make your Calgary Stampede Parade experience with kids not only memorable but easy and fun for all.

7 Easy Tips for Taking Kids to the Calgary Stampede Parade

Pack a Healthy Lunch & Snacks – a well fed kid is a happy kid and you are a happy parent. I always pack lots of snacks and a lunch for everyone so that nobody gets cranky from being hungry. Yes there are places downtown where you can purchase food, but the pickings may not be the most healthy and lines will be long. If you bring your own not only can you choose foods that you want your kids to eat (and they enjoy) but they can eat when they’re hungry and you don’t have to go chasing after food or make them wait.

Calgary Stampede ParadeBring Folding Chairs – you may find these a bit challenging to carry with the kids but believe me it is worth it (and as they get older they can carry their own chairs). Watch the parade in comfort as sitting for two hours on the curb can make your butt pretty sore. The kids will likely be up and down from their chairs but that’s ok, still make sure everyone has their own as everyone will be more comfortable. They are also great space markers if you have to zip to the bathroom or run and grab something and don’t have another adult to leave behind to ‘guard the spot’.

Get into the Spirit of Stampede (and get the kids excited about it) – dress for it! Grab cowboy hats and boots, jeans and button down shirts and wear them to the parade. Kids gear is not that expensive or you can buy second hand. The kids will love dressing up and it’ll build their excitement and interest in what’s happening.

Bring Hats, Suncreen and Water – it can get very hot along the parade route and you are sitting there for at least two hours. Make sure you have full water bottles for everyone, hats (cowboy style of course) and sunscreen. Some places along the route provide some shade then turn into sun or vice versa so be prepared.

calgary stampede paradeDress in Layers (or at least bring a sweater and raincoat) – my mother always taught me to be prepared and that you never go out the door without your raincoat, even when the sun is shining brightly (we all know how fast Calgary weather can change). It also tends to be cooler in the morning as you are waiting and the parade starts and much warmer by the time the parade is over. If you bring a few layers it allows you to put on and take off as needed so that your body temperature is comfortable during the parade.

Pick Your Spot at the end of the Parade Route – this is what I do every year and we find a really good spot curbside for the kids. We drive down and park near the end of the route, getting down there by 9 in the morning, and we never have an issue getting a spot. Now this year they have thrown me for a bit of a loop because they have reversed the parade route – going backwards to what they usually do – so this throws a bit of a glitch into my plan, but the same concept will apply. We find our spot at the end wait maybe an hour for it to start (doesn’t that sound way better than 5 am) and the parade is finished on our end by noon.

Bring backpacks and/ or a wagon – you’re probably wondering how you’re going to carry all this stuff. When the kids were smaller I would bring a large backpack that I put everything in and a wagon for the chairs. As they got older though they would bring their own backpacks and carry their own chairs (seriously start them early and it will become second nature to them – when we went to Florida this year there were times I carried nothing because everyone could carry their own stuff, it was fantastic).

The parade really is a wonderful experience and can easily be enjoyed with kids and by parents with these easy tips (one tip for parents if you want coffee bring your own the line ups for this coveted beverage are crazy!)

Calgary Stampede Parade Combo

It is not one to be missed simply because you’re concerned about the crowd or getting a spot, these can be easily navigated. Really everyone is down there to have fun and enjoy the parade. So as long as everyone is mindful, patient and polite the Calgary Stampede Parade can be added to the memory books as a positive experience and one that is enjoyed year after year.

Calgary Stampede Parade

Have a tip you use when taking your kids to the parade? Share in the comments below.

Thinking of taking the kids down to Stampede grounds? Check out these tips to get the most out of your day, have fun and keep everybody happy.

Light Up the Night – Magical Musical Christmas Light Displays

IMG_2549Lights sparkle and shine as they dance with the music. Delight in the twins eyes as they wait in anticipation, the music building, wondering what will come. Then, in a crescendo of light and music together the spectacle really begins. Movement and rhythm, flowing and moving as their eyes follow the dance. This wonderful light display one of many that light up Calgary this holiday season.

I’ve always enjoyed those videos on youTube with the houses all decorated for Christmas and the musical accompaniment that goes in time with the light display. I always thought how cool that would be to see some of those live instead of just online. Little did I know that in Calgary there are a number of houses that do have such a light display. When my friend told me this a couple of years ago I was quite excited! So one night we went out and did a tour. It was wonderful! We enjoyed the light display from the comfort of our car, tuning into the posted radio station, which plays the music in time with the lights.

People are quite creative, incorporating all kinds of things with usually about 4 or 5 different songs before the show repeats. This year I took the kids out to see the lights for the first time. We made an evening of it, bringing hot chocolate and snacks to enjoy while we watched the lights. Luke and Chloe loved it! Dancing and moving it in the van while watching in wonder. We stayed at each house until the full set had run and then moved on to the next one.

IMG_2544The neat thing is that there are tons of them in Calgary and you can view as many or as few as you like. The site Lighten Up Calgary lists and maps out the houses that have such displays and you simply go to the site and create your route. We visited 3 houses when we went out last week but that was just the right amount for Luke and Chloe. And I thought it was great that they knew their limit and knew when it was time to go home. I would’ve have gone to one more, but they had seen, enjoyed and were ‘full’.

They fell asleep on our way home, tummies full of hot chocolate, and dreaming of dancing lights. Next year I’m sure we’ll go out again, as it’s another great free family activity to enjoy over the holidays. Most of them play every night in December and up until New Year’s. Who knows maybe one year we’ll even create our own display and be on the route – apparently it’s as simple as buying a kit. How fun will that be!

Banff’s Santa Claus Parade

IMG_6729The main street is lined with people, children and adults alike. Lights all aglow, shops closed and waiting in anticipation for what’s to come. Snow glitters on the sidewalks and the majestic mountains surround us. It’s beautiful.

Excitement is in the air as children peek out from the crowd to look down the street to see if it’s begun. To see if Santa and his parade are coming. Waiting patiently, yet continually asking Mom and Dad if it’s time yet. This is Banff’s annual Santa Claus parade, held at night with the beauty and magic of Christmas lights all around.

IMG_6700We attended this beautiful event for the first time this year, and it is well worth the trip out to Banff. Currently run by Banff Lake Louise Tourism for the past 7 years, this event has been hosted by the Town of Banff for many years prior. The parade itself is actually the finale of a day filled with kid friendly and family activities such as face painting, balloon twisting, Christmas carols and a visit and photo with Santa down at the train station. There’s also horse drawn wagon rides, tasty treats and of if you’re up for it, a nice soak in the hot springs (which is available every day of the year but is always lovely).

I love touring Banff Avenue and spending time in the Christmas Shoppe. My youngest two, screaming in delight at the grand display of Christmas houses and towns. The ornaments are many, the options are delightful and there is no shortage of Christmas anywhere.

IMG_6723The parade itself is only half an hour long, which I feel is the perfect length for children, who remain engaged and excited the whole time. The floats were gorgeous, creative and unique all lit up as they moved down the street. From the Girl Guides to Sunshine Village there was an excellent representation of the town.

Of course I loved that it was at night. It just added to the atmosphere and excitement with all the floats magically lit up. Even my oldest son, who is 12 and I was unsure if he would like it, expressed that he did enjoy it and said it was “cool”, which meant we had success.

IMG_6677I think Santa Claus parades are such a fabulous idea and up until recently only knew of the big ones in Toronto and New York. I didn’t realize that many of the local towns in and around Calgary host their own Santa Claus Parades and they are quite well done! Parades are held in High River, Okotoks, Airdrie, and Cochrane (which if you still want to attend a Santa Claus Parade this season is this Saturday, December 12th). I think it’s a great way to celebrate the season and your community. And everyone has that little flare and does things a little differently, distinguishing themselves from the rest.

You can go to any of the town’s websites for details and pick the ones you want, or even do a tour! of Santa Parades – how fun would that be? We are already planning for Banff again next year, hoping to take full advantage of the day and all the activities they have to offer. We might even take the plunge and stay overnight!

IMG_6696It creates such great memories an event that I hope every family has the opportunity to enjoy.

Have you attended a Santa Claus parade this year? Share with us your memories and experience.

Connecting Children through Nature with Parent Me in the Park

IMG_4149Crisp autumn leaves crunch beneath our feet. The morning is crisp yet fresh, as we move along the wooded trail exploring. The kids are playing peek a boo amongst the trees, peeking out from behind tree trunks or hiding ‘obviously’ within the twigs. The pace is relaxed, amiable, and comfortable as we explore the natural world together.

This is how we spend our Thursday mornings at Parent Me in the Park. Exploring the beauty and wonder of Edworthy Park with other parents and children. Enjoying all that nature has to offer as the season changes and shifts, learning and discovering new things each week.

IMG_4150I love this program. It is one that is close to my heart as I am an outdoor enthusiast myself and believe strongly in the power of teaching and bonding with children in nature. I also believe there is huge value in connecting children to their natural environment at a young age. “More and more research is highlighting the benefits of spending time in nature. Rain, shine or snow… (Parent Me in the Park) a morning of fun and discoveries.” If they use that childhood wonder and curiosity to learn and appreciate the planet through the outdoors, then they will take good care of it as they grow up.

Lead by Nancy Richard, a certified PCI Coach and Early Childhood Educator, Parent Me in the Park is a wonderful program that does just that. Through exploration, songs and stories, she not only connects the children with nature but teaches us, as parents, to connect with our children as well, creating a bond with them, like no other.

IMG_4130I discovered this program when I was at Angel’s Cappuccino and Ice Cream Cafe earlier this Fall (which was also a wonderful new discovery) parousing the bulletin board and saw a poster for the program. I was intrigued and excited, so we went the first week to find out what it was about.

Now our first week was actually in Griffith Woods, which is located in southwest Calgary in the community of Discovery Ridge. Due to our whacky snow storm that hit in early September, Edworthy Park had been closed due to all the damage and fallen trees from the snow. The location didn’t matter though, Nancy weaved her magic with all the children quickly and easily.

IMG_4131Luke and Chloe were engaged right from the start with Nancy’s calm and easy going manner, and Chloe’s new ‘job’ pulling the wagon full of all our supplies for our morning. The layout of the program is similar each week with a short circle of songs and games, then a walk (or meander) through the park pausing and discovering along the way. We choose a path and go and explore, finding sticks, pine cones, rocks, etc. along the way. Nancy goes with the flow, finding those teachable moments, whether it be about berries or pine cones, as our walk progresses.

After our walk, we enjoy a fantastic snack of fresh bread and apple butter, with yummy cloudberry herbal tea. For some, this is the best part, enjoying this delicious and nutritious snack together in the outdoors. Once snack is completed we sit on the blanket together for a short story, which Nancy tells with the use of hand puppets. All in all a very relaxing, very enjoyable morning.

IMG_4151Both Luke and Chloe love it, as I never have trouble getting either of them ready or out the door. In fact, Luke who is sometimes hard to move, always jumps up after breakfast and gets dressed, standing at the door waiting. I think it’s fantastic!

And I love going to Edworthy Park as well. Looking forward to discovering a new area each week. My favorite so far being the Douglas Fir Trail; considered one of Calgary’s finest hiking trails with some of the most easterly Douglas Fir trees on the plains. It is a beautifully treed trail that leads along the cliff above Edworthy Park.

I was also pleased to discover there is a lot of Calgary history around Edworthy Park, which I always find interesting and fascinating to learn. Nancy will share tidbits she is familiar with, but there are also signs throughout the park describing the history of the area and how the park served Calgary in its growth and development.

IMG_4152Another benefit of course, is the friendships that are forming between the parents, as we come together each week with our children. Finding out about each other, things we like to do, places we like to go and the challenges we also face as parents. Creating another opportunity for support in our parenting journey.

IMG_4155It is a beautiful morning, one that provides many benefits for the adults and children alike. We always leave feeling happy, satisfied and full, ready for whatever comes with the rest of our day. I would highly recommend Parent Me in the Park to any parents with young children between baby to 4 years old. It is an experience you’ll never forget and a bond that you won’t create anyway else.

For more information on this program and to register contact Nancy Richard or find Parent Me in the Park on Meetup.com.

On the Lookout

I am always on the lookout for new places to go see and explore. I feel that there is so much out there in the world that it is not only important but fun to go and find out what’s out  there. I especially love being able to take my kids to these places to show and share with them the richness and variety of our world; that there is so much to see and do. So much to go and learn, experience and appreciate.

Our latest adventure took us to the Jurassic Forest, which is just north of Gibbons, Alberta. It is an animatronic dinosaur display where you walk along 2 different loops to experience and learn about dinosaurs. It is extremely well done.

I could have just stood there for hours watching just one, but the kids would look watch enjoy and then be saying, “Come on, come on Mum” to go and see what’s next.

There is lots of information around the trails, excellent interpretive signs as well as some of the staff wandering around with special items, like a T-Rex tooth or beaver pelt, to explore or to answer any questions. I am a sign reader 🙂 I want to read every sign and every bit of information that is on it. I am not sure if this is just me or if perhaps my parents taught me this (as my sisters seem to be sign readers too) but I like to read and learn all the information. I don’t want to miss a thing! I try to relay some of the information to the kids by sharing a fact or two but this does not always work.

Entrance to the park is reasonably priced, $40 for a family of 4 and $8 for an additional child. Our adventure there was quite interesting as we started out with warm sunny weather and clear blue skies, while part way through we ended up with a thunder shower and rain.

Still exploring after the rain

One of the rules we had when we went on any trip growing up was that we had to have 2 things – our bathing suit and our rain gear. If we had those two things then we were set no matter what. I have adopted this with my children as well and though the twins are too young yet to know it, Matthew always smiles when I bring it up and can answer very quickly what the 2 things are that he should have; and dutifully packs them without fuss or question.

My point is we were prepared, so that when it started to rain we just put on our raincoats and carried on, while others rushed through the rest of the path to find shelter. Ok well almost all of us had our raincoats. I have to admit that though we had brought them I only had mine in the park and had left all the kids raincoats in the car. Oops! That did not work out so well.  Regardless, we still did not rush for shelter and mosied along the path finishing our tour. As my aunt said (who joined us at the park that day), we’re here we might as well check it all out.

There are other things there to enjoy as well, they have an interactive display where you can actually ride a dinosaur, a paleontological site where you can discover and help identify dinosaur remains, an adventure play area and a flora and fauna walk. You can also find scavenger hunts for each of the loops on the Jurassic Forest website that you can print out and search for clues. They have even added two new loops The Evolution of Mammals and Taking Flight (about birds and their link to the dinosaurs).

Riding the dinosaur

They have a photo contest each month with a different theme where you can win a Jurassic Forest prize pack. And the gift shop is really good. I often find that the gift shops at these places have a bunch of junky trinkets that break easily and overly priced. This one is quite well done with lots of neat, quality items, such as dinosaur bone ice cube trays, dinosaur puppets and models.

All in all we had a fabulous time with Luke asking the next day if we could go back. We all really enjoyed the dinosaurs, especially my aunt who thanked us profusely for inviting her to come, with a a big smile and a gleam of excitement in her eye. So if you’re looking for an adventure this summer, have a some dinosaur lovers or just looking for somewhere to take the kids you have not been before, I would highly recommend you venture out to the Jurassic Forest.

 

Christmas at the Hive

On the weekend I took the kids out to the Chinook Honey Company in Okotoks. A local honey farm and winery, they were hosting a Christmas family event with lots of activities for everyone.

When we first got up in the morning and I checked the temperature I debated on whether to go. It was -15 C and I knew most of the activities would be outside; and though we would dress for it, I knew for the little ones it might be cold.

As we putzed around and got breakfast going I slowly started to pack snacks and lunch, having decided that we would go and check it out. Though it was cool, I knew there were some buildings there that we could go into if we got cold; and living in Calgary you really can’t let the weather stop you from doing things. If you did, you’d never go anywhere or do anything. Besides this was the last day the event was on and I thought it would be fun for the kids.

Matthew making beeswax snow candle

And it was! It turned out to be one of those sunny clear blue sky Alberta days with lots of fun to be had. They had a scavenger hunt, apiary tours, and pictures with Christmas Critters. The kids could make their own beeswax snow candle, go on sleigh rides and enter the coloring contest. There was also an observation area where you could check out the bees in their hive, we even spotted the Queen.

Luke really enjoyed standing there and watching the bees. He just stood in front of the glass, head tilted up, watching. Chloe loved the animals, they had a horse and two donkeys that you could have your picture taken with. It took us a few tries getting the animals, and the kids all looking in the same direction, but we finally got a nice shot of everyone. Chloe and Luke insisted that they got to hold the rope of the donkey, just like Matthew did and Chloe cried when the donkey had to go back to his pen after the picture (cause she wanted to pet him some more).

They have a full store out there as well full of various honey products, such as beeswax candles, honey sticks, chocolates and the winery. It was decorated beautifully for Christmas, a rustic sort of look. The staff were extremely friendly as well and it’s a great environment to hang out.

They had a big fire pit outside to hang out and have hot chocolate and snacks and they even had carollers out there at one point. We did the apiary tour, which was interesting as the ‘King Bee’ Art, explained and showed us how they set up the ‘hives’ for the bees and how they extracted honey from them. It was fascinating, and all the kids were very attentive.

We learned many things such as how the bees ‘make’ their queen, how long she lives (4-5 years), what the role of the workerbees and drones are. He also told us how Albert Einstein once said that once the honey bee poplulation of the world was zero that we would have 4-5 years left to live; and that the honey bee populations of the world are dwindling and are down by 30%. Farmers are now working hard to keep healthy bee populations as they are so important to our ecosystem.

It is also highly beneficial for us to consume local honey made by local bees, as local honey provides us with immunity builders to environmental conditions in our area. So buying local is not just beneficial to the local economy but good for our health as well!

All in all it was a great day at the honey farm, we learned a lot, we played and we even left with a treasures, beeswax candles and some wonderful memories!

 

Stepping Stones

I had the pleasure of participating last weekend in a fundraising event for The Salvation Army Agape Hospice. This was a weekend long event held at the Azuridge Hotel in Priddis, Alberta called Deck the Halls.

Matt Dusk

The weekend included a design competition, a moonlight gala and silent auction as well as a family day with sleigh rides, face painting and Santa Claus. It also included performances by Matt Dusk, singer, songwriter and producer of jazz-pop music.

I had the opportunity to be one of the vendors in the Christmas shop where people could come and buy gift items or participate in various causes. There were people there from Stars, Canadian Blood Services, Soapnducks, Pampered Chef, and Scentsy as well as myself from Your Inner Light, where I was offering Angel Readings and associated products such as oracle cards and books.

The day was a busy and festive one with the room decorated for Christmas with delightful themed Christmas trees and displays, a giant gingerbread house and people milling through taking a look at the fares. We also enjoyed a performance that day with Mr. Dusk and what a show that was! He is a young, lively and vibrant man who definitely loves what he does. He is playful and young at heart and had everybody tapping their feet or dancing.

The thing that I found interesting about the crowd was the feeling in the air. As an Angel Therapy Practitioner® I can pick up on the vibe in the air, the feelings of people and atmosphere. Though there was a festive theme, I noticed that there were a lot of people in the room who though smiling were feeling sad inside inside, a little lost, who were searching for something and ready for a change or a shift in their lives. There were people who were together yet you could sense that they were miles apart. And I knew I was there to help.

My belief is that this is all related to the global shift that we are experiencing now, as we approach December 21, our bodies are changing and transforming, adjusting to the next level of ascension. For some of us that means that we are changing at rapid rates, which is why many of us are experiencing severe mood swings, fatigue and restlessness in our lives. We are not always able to pinpoint what is making us feel this way or why, but we can feel it. We are all opening up to our intuition and on different levels of our spiritual journey. Yet while some of us are accepting or seeking out the guidance to help us through, others are not sure what to do with it all or don’t know where to go.

My best advice to everyone is to be gentle with yourself during this time of change and to seek support in whatever form works best for you, whether it be through workshops, books and learning or finding kindred spirits to discuss and support you through your process. Because it is a process and a change and we all need support and to be patient with ourselves. One of the things we know is change is constant, so we will never be where we are forever. So if we are feeling sad or searching, the good news is you will not be here forever, you will find your answer and the happiness you seek. I encourage people not to be afraid and to move forward fearlessly. Do things that comfort you and speak to your soul. Know that you are not alone, that we are all going through this transition and change to some degree and that we are doing it together.

This is a very exciting time to be on the planet and believe it or not we all chose to be here at this time! This means that our role is just as important as the next person’s and we all have a part to play in the creation of the next steps for our planet and our lives.

This is why I feel that it is important for me to get out there and be present in the world, sharing my knowledge and skills with those who need it. I believe that day I connected  and talked with those that needed it most. Though some of the other vendors felt that the crowd was small and that the day was a bit slow for business, I felt that it was extremely successful. I did exactly what I needed to do that day. I also believe that by simply being present my energy may have helped someone I did not directly connect with and that’s what makes this all worthwhile. To know that I made a difference, which is what I think many of us strive to do/ feel in our lives.

What is my point? Don’t give up, don’t shun an opportunity because it doesn’t look profitable. You never know what connections or stepping stones you have placed by participating or who you may help. I helped that day at the fundraiser and I am sure, set the foundation for something else to come, which though not clear to me yet, I know will become clear.

Remember that everything you do affects another and that your contribution to the world is always significant; and as you enter the holiday season know that not only are we celebrating Christmas this year, but the planet and the wonderful transition that we making together towards a brighter, better and more peaceful planet.